Sunday, June 8, 2014

Kisses from puppy brother

Now that I'm a father I have endless blog post topics. Now that I'm a father, the only time I have for said blog topics is a quick note where they get lost on the page with other seemingly great ideas. Maybe I'll have to embrace brevity as my new best friend. And so, in the spirit of that briefness, here is the story of how we brought our healthy daughter, Lily, home from the hospital.

Internet research began long before going into labor, paired by discussions with friends who have paved the way with children and dogs. We discovered scent is everything. I packed one of Lily's future blankets into the bag we took to labor and delivery. We used this blanket for about a day after Lily was born, wrapping her in it as much as possible.

Then, the day before bringing Lily home, I brought the blanket home. Just like any new item we introduce into the house, Charlie must be there to inspect the contents and the blanket was no exception. But it was unlike other new things we've put in the house; the second I let him smell it, he couldn't get enough of it. His tail curved down, still wagging. He buried his nose in the blanket, sniffing. This introduction session could have lasted longer than the duration of five minutes I allowed, but I was on a timeline to shower, grab some necessities, and head back to the hospital.

I walked up the stairs to the bedrooms, blanket in hand, and Charlie right at my heals the entire way. I simply dropped the blanket into the crib in Lily's room. Charlie stood there, smelling, walking around the crib. He returned several times as if to check and ensure the newly scented blanket was still there.

A day and a half later, we put Lily in the Subaru Outback for the first time, giving her the first ride home. Michelle walked into the house first to give Charlie an opportunity to greet her. Then I walked in a moment later, carrying Lily. There is no way to know that Charlie knew Lily was ours, but I'm certain he knew.

He excitedly followed me around the house and I got down to his level so that he could meet his human sister. Immediately he wanted to devour her with love, giving the all-so-famous Charlie licks. He started with her feet and it didn't take long for him to try to do the same on her soft infant head. We put a quick end to his obsessiveness, trying to keep him from going at Lily too quickly or jumping near her.

Now Charlie accepts Lily as part of our family. He is patient with her and with us as we all try to figure out this new way of living with each other. Like the loyal and loving dog he is, Charlie is present every moment, right there, alongside us.

He still loves giving puppy brother kisses to his human sister, licking her cheeks, forehead, arms, hands, and feet. Lily tolerates it with her infant-stink face. And I, too, am often the recipient of that same exact stink face.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The years of age

Approximately three weeks ago I met with my dietician. It's an obligatory ritual as part of our health coverage, and it is honestly something I don't mind doing. Well, except for the eight to twelve hours of fasting before the required blood-draw in order to run biometrics like HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar glucose levels. This skinny man has difficulty fasting that long; I enjoy and need food.

Discussing my health status has taken on another level of meaning for me as I've grown older. I've begun to care more deeply about my health, and take it more seriously. While I never have lived recklessly or lived a lifestyle that puts my health in question, age has made me different. Eating a more balanced diet becomes conscious and deliberate. Caring about how I feel, and, listening to my body and responding accordingly has become a central priority instead of just plowing through whatever it is that seems more important than how I'm feeling.

So each year, when I get the results from my dietician and we discuss my health indicators, I take great pride in the fact that I'm very healthy for my age. And it's not necessarily the "healthy" part. It's the "age" part that has me most concerned. As each year forges on, I begin to cherish all that is good around me. This may begin to sound like old-man writing here, but priorities have shifted. Existing beliefs have solidified. I now focus more on the present and what matters most, dismissing more triviality, taking stock in simplicity. Age 35 came quickly this year, and I hope 40, 45, and 50 do as well. It's important for me that they do.

This thinking could be man's version of "nesting," as the due date of our first child passed on Sunday. Thinking about our daughter is definitely the driving variable in this meandering post about the years of age. 

But there are other variables. Like the fact that it's much harder to run these days. Even though I've been running more consistently now than I have for quite some time, running isn't necessarily running anymore. It's jogging. Even when I'm sprinting, it's jogging. And I feel those "sprints" the next day. Breathing when I run has also become more predictable. Mile three I'm about to give in. When I get past that marker, don't even get me started about the motivation and mindset needed to thrive past mile 5.

I've developed the habit of snoring. And not just little snores, but those old-man, bear-like, throat-and-nose-all-at-the-same-time (if you're going to do it, do it big) type of snoring. How do I know? Michelle lets me know by kicking, hitting, and down-right punching me throughout the night to get me to stop. This, obviously, wakes me up, while also interrupting my sleep cycle, making me exhausted the next day. Or, sadly, I wake myself up with my own noise. This definitely is an old man problem. I wonder if my dietician can run some sort of biometric related to snoring?

Hair grows differently. And out of my nose, ears, and in extremely long singular strands on my lower neck. I have no idea why this all happens. I refuse to be that one dude with the bushy hair you see creeping out of his nose, or flapping in the wind from his ears. I trim regularly. Weirdest thing.

Five in the morning is no longer invigorating. And neither is 9:30 at night. Or even 1:30 in the afternoon. Sleep, naps, and resting are all great activities. (Reference the topic of snoring two paragraphs up).

I've begun to notice that instead of seeking advice, I've somehow turned into the confidant. The adviser. The one people listen to more and doubt and question less.

By habit I listen more. I ponder and am more gracious with others. I only speak when it's prudent. I actually have multiple scenarios and experiences from which to draw upon, instead of seeing most everything as an exciting revelation.

I'm more confident. While I still care about impressions, I care less about making impressions.

Despite all these indications of oldness, I feel good. 35 yeas of age is just a marker, a name, language, and gauge of time. It is surreal. My dietician says everything about my health is outstanding. I'm proud that the care I've invested into my health is paying off.

And so tonight, instead of taking advantage of the perfect weather to go on a long run, I instead chose to drink beer on the front porch, watch the neighborhood, and write this blog post. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

For the love of cupcakes

I was browsing the internet and discovered a hilarious Youtube video, When the dog stays at home. Not only is the video awesome in its own right, but it makes me think about what Charlie would do if he was left to roam around the house on his own.

The last time we were able to leave Charlie home alone without his kennel was when he was a puppy. We blocked off the kitchen from the rest of the house, allowing him access to only that one room. This lasted for a week when one day we came home to find the kitchen rug ruined, the woodwork of the door scratched to the point of shreds, and gnawed up kitchen table legs. This traumatic situation for both Charlie and us, his owners, means Charlie will always stay home in the kennel.

However, this week, Michelle received a glimpse of what may happen when we are not around. She brought home a cupcake from Jones Bros. Cupcakes and left the kitchen only to return to this:

Apparently, Charlie loves cupcakes.

However, Charlie pretty much loves anything to do with humans. Or food. Because later that same week I did a quick cleaning of the refrigerator, dumping some leftovers that had been in there too long. Mistakenly, I left the garbage out of the cupboard in the kitchen and it didn't take very long for Charlie to chow down on some delicious, old food.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lenten goals and Charlie's teeth cleaning saga

Charlie has two states of mind: intensity and passivity. When he is not sleeping or cuddling with one of us he is going crazy chasing his toys, following us around the house, or demanding our affection.

In comparison, I oftentimes feel like life is too frantic and intense. This week we kicked off the annual season of Lent and instead of giving up something this year, I've decided that I'm going to actively work on doing something this year. Like Charlie, I sometimes feel like I'm constantly active, devoted to liveliness, headed a certain direction, and focused on accomplishment. While there is nothing wrong with living a full life of activity, there is much to be desired about moments of serenity. Solitude is important for relaxation, reflection, thinking, and listening. My goal is to practice some sort of mindfulness every day. I want to create a routine of carving out moments of time for rejuvenation. And since we will have an infant in our home in a couple of months, I'm anticipating that creating mindful habits will be necessary.

While I focus on more mindfulness, Charlie is basically unable to maintain a calm serene state for any period of time, unless he is under the influence of mood altering substances. This happened this week for his annual teeth cleaning. The vet sedated Charlie to do some serious plaque removal and the effects of the drugs lasted for almost an entire day following the appointment.

When I arrived at the vet in the afternoon to pick Charlie up, he calmly came out of the backroom with the staff, not pulling on his leash at all. He cautiously, with his tail curved down between his legs trying to wag, approached the other patrons in the waiting area to sniff them. He was unable to jump up and meet them as they commented on his cuteness. While I appreciated this obedient side of Charlie, I knew it was an induced state keeping his true personality down.

Things really were not normal when I put him in his kennel in the back seat of the car on the way home. He immediately laid down, rather than protesting excitedly and making agitated monkey sounds the entire time he was in the car. 

Usually when we get home, he runs around the backyard and onto the porch steps waiting to go inside the house. But this time, he just couldn't quite get his back legs to cooperate with the front ones as he casually strolled along the sidewalk and carefully waddled up the two steps to the back door.

I was quite amused when he didn't care to follow me around the house once inside. Normally Charlie will run up and down the stairs to keep up with me but those same stairs had now become a daunting (and almost dangerous) proposition. A drugged up Charlie was quite hilarious. I could tell the poor guy wanted to break out and act like his crazy self, but was just unable to figure out what had happened. The sofa, left in a reclining position, was where he finally planted himself once he bravely took the leap to get up there.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Makenna Pope's insights expose injustice and initiate change

How much of our lives do we live unexamined?

What do we take for granted?

What are we unwilling to question?

These were the questions that lingered with me after I watched Makenna Pope’s TED talk titled Want to be an activist? Start with your toys. This young woman is certainly remarkable! She saw in her brother a talent and passion for cooking. She saw a boy who enjoyed something and hoped he had an outlet to explore and develop that interest. But she also saw something in the world that would potentially hold him back. Something that would send a message out into the world clouding his and others’ perceptions about young boys who like to cook. A message that could squash them. Something that could extinguish his desire.

Watch the video below:

What I like most about this TED talk is how Makenna pushes her audience to change the world, to go out into it and actively work for change that needs to be made. Maybe it is as simple as wanting to change the packaging of a toy. Yet even something as simple as that can be monstrous to obtain. Like Makenna states, once you realize you can become an activist and argue for change, you are immediately faced with obstacles: people. She shares how discouraging people in the world can be. Disrespectful. Close-minded. Unsupportive. Downright cruel and vindictive.

Makenna advises us to breeze past the negative people out there with the simple phrase, "haters gonna hate." In doing this, she not only accomplishes the change she wishes to see happen, she, as a young person, has convinced the adult world to make a difference in the lives of young boys who enjoy to cook.

I think there is much we can take from this short talk. One, what do we teach our kids both explicitly and implicitly? Two, what gendered messages do we communicate to children? Three, how can we better listen to youth, and encourage them to explore and challenge the injustices they see in the world, no matter how big or small?

Finally, how can we take what we believe and turn it into a cause?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Moments of (random) connection

Today has been full of haphazard connections with random strangers.

It began with a late morning trip with Charlie to the vet. Charlie loved visiting his vet in Lincoln. I think the most difficult thing about moving to a new city is trying to discover all those places you frequented in your old city because of habit and comfort: your doctor's offices, dentist (mine is my father-in-law, so that one really hasn't changed), barber, or repair services. The list is endless. We establish relationships with those we frequent for the services and necessities of life.

Deb, my barber in Lincoln, is someone I have known since high school and college. When she answered the phone, all I had to say was, "Hi, Deb, it's Todd." She knew it was me and we scheduled my three week hair cut appointment, during which we caught up on what was happening in life. I shared buying my first house, graduating from college, teaching, surviving a car accident, getting married, getting a new job. Deb shared updates about the state of her garden, all the details of her sons' weddings and job changes, her husband's heart-attack. Both Deb and I were sad about my move to Omaha. She reminded me that I can still have my hair cut in Lincoln when I make trips to visit family and friends.

Maybe there is something wrong with me, but replacing Deb was hard. It was a necessity, and I didn't want to do it. Recently I have found a new barber in Omaha at a place called The Beard and Mane. Not only did I receive a great haircut, but I was greeted with a smile, a handshake, and was offered a beer or coffee while I waited. The Beard and Mane is my kind of place! But this blog post isn't about haircuts and finding a new barber or veterinarian. What I'm interested in are those connections we make as people. Oftentimes we have to work hard at establishing those connections, while other times they are the coincidences of life.

Back to this morning. Michelle took Charlie to his first vet appointment in Omaha and today was my first time taking him there. I wasn't so sure that I was going to enjoy this experience as much as I liked Wachel Pet Health Center in Lincoln. Charlie was just happy to be in the car with me. We were greeted with a smile by Karen at VCA Animal Medical Center of Omaha. Karen was verifying our information and then said that she lives in our neighborhood. I found out that Karen lives a block away from us. She asked where our house was and after I explained the location to her, she named our neighbors who we really like. We had a great conversation about where we like to walk our dogs. She can't wait for warmer weather to see everyone out with their kids and dogs. She shared that another young family recently moved into the neighborhood.

After the appointment, we told her that we looked forward to seeing her again, either outside in the spring or next time at the vet. It was a random connection, but one that seems to happen frequently with those who live in our neighborhood.

When Charlie and I got home, we stayed outside to clear the sidewalks of the light dusting of snow from earlier in the morning. As I was out front, a Nebraska Furniture Mart truck slowly turned the corner and drove by, stopping at our house next door. I kept my head down, taking care of the task ahead of me. I had an inkling that I should shout out a neighborly hello to the two delivery men who got out of the truck but I resisted. It have no idea why I decided not to say hi to these random strangers. It would have been a perfectly nice thing to do, especially since I felt something urging me to do so. And shame on me for not doing it.

One of the men at the back of the truck said, "Did you recently buy that house?"

"Yes we did," I replied, wondering about the nature of the question and where this conversation was headed, "Around the end of August."

"I knew the guy, Peter, who used to live there," said the Nebraska Furniture Mart man.

I smiled about the second random connection of the day. "It's a great house," I said. "We love it."

"It's a terrific house," said the Nebraska Furniture Mart man. "I helped Peter do a lot of work on it. The first time I met him, we installed that bathroom on the first floor. And then we became friends and did a lot of updates on it. I knew when I saw it go up for sale that it would sell fast."

"Well, I feel like the lucky one," I said as I returned to shoveling the snow.

I am feeling lucky and thankful about life. Maybe it is because of the two random encounters happening in such a short period of time from each another. Maybe I'm a little more sentimental and reflective this time of year, as the anniversary of my severe car accident is only days away. Maybe I'm turning into an old man (as another birthday is quickly approaching) who discovers too much meaning in the ordinary and just enjoys talking to anyone about anything. Or maybe I'm just experiencing an endless euphoric state of surprise that we stumbled upon such an amazing place to call home.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

That rug smells new

Today we made our first substantial purchase, a crib, in preparation for our first child. While we were shopping, we also spent some time looking at area rugs. Choosing the rug was more of an ordeal than selecting the right bed for a baby. The first complication was that I'm not much of a shopper. I don't particularly enjoy being in stores, around crowds, with endless selection. I just can't stand searching through things to find what I want. The second complication was Michelle. Her decision-making skills are deliberate and elaborate, consisting of weighing extensive pros and cons. Promptness is rarely involved. Her one decision for the day was selecting the crib. Rug shopping put her over the edge, and she shut down quickly.

Luckily, as we walked away from the floor covering department giving up for the day, she stated there were rugs she could see in our bedroom. We turned back to the department, promptly picking a rug, which even seemed to surprise the salesman.

Back at home, Charlie was very excited to have new stuff. He was right alongside me the entire time I unpacked all the pieces of the crib from the box.

The real treat was when I unrolled the new rug upstairs in the bedroom.

Poor, unfortunate Charlie has been unable to find a comfortable space to lay on the floor. Having a home with wood floors has been quite rough for him.

Until now.

Immediately he rolled all over the rug to either gather up that new rug smell onto himself, or to make it smell like him. Regardless, he vigorously accomplished what he deemed necessary. Then, after sniffing, scratching, rolling, and pacing the entire area, he plopped down to lay contently.

It seems he approves of our decision.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Free dog

This morning started out ordinarily, in a similar way of my other mornings. I turned in bed, almost awake, Charlie sensing it was time to get up. I heard his paws hit the wood floor as he got out of his dog bed located on the floor next to the human bed. The metal license tag on his collar slightly jingled while he did the dog shake. Then the tap, tap, tap of paws rounded their way around the bed. Like he does every morning, Charlie put his front paws on the mattress and stretched up to greet me.

I looked at his large beady eyes right near my face. His tail was thumping loudly, swinging back and forth persistently, hitting the corner of the bedroom wall.

It was time to get up.

We walked out of the bedroom, me leading the way (as it should be in any owner-dog relationship, with the "master" being in charge). Charlie followed down the stairs and I let him outside into the backyard after glancing at the outdoor temperature of only 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I opened the blinds to the back window, seeing Charlie begin his morning ritual of smelling and inspecting the happenings from overnight. I went around and opened some of the other blinds in the living room and dinning room before refilling Charlie's water dish and then prepared the coffeemaker for my morning brew. I glanced out the back window. Charlie did his business and then went around the patio for more yard inspection. I knew he would take a little more time. Next he would go stand on the deck, hold his head high, smell the wind, then walk off the porch and around the side to the gate that leads to the front yard. Then he would be willing and ready to come in for some breakfast. He's a creature of habit.

I started the coffee and then gathered some breakfast for myself. I opened the back door. Charlie wasn't sitting there waiting, like usual. I looked out the back window. I thought he must still be over where I couldn't see him, sniffing. Instinctively, I had a bad feeling. But I convinced myself that all was fine. There are some mornings where he likes to take his time. I continued with my morning ritual of opening blinds, turning the spindle to the last window, the one in the kitchen.

Immediately, after seeing out the window, I remembered the conversation Michelle and I had the night before about the defective latch on the gate and how it occasionally swings open in the wind.  

You've got to be kidding me, I thought to myself, half annoyed with Charlie but also slightly delighted for him because what dog doesn't deserve to have a little freedom and excitement that a lack of boundaries provides. His little mind was probably bombarded with adrenaline to roam the neighborhood. My next thought was one of anxiety and fear for Charlie's safety (I'm not completely an irresponsible dog-owner). Our home is one house from a street with decent traffic.

Remembering the temperature, I put my coat on over my stylish pajamas, becoming more perturbed with the situation.

I walked out onto the deck, stepped down, and followed the sidewalk around the side of the deck to the defective gate.

"Charlie," I said, standing there. There wasn't any sign of him yet. I stepped a little more brazenly out of the backyard, stopping near the front of the house. I glanced at the neighborhood houses across the street, not able to really see in their windows, but glad that I couldn't easily discern bodies looking out, seeing me in my dapper attire.

Next, I began to scan the neighborhood for Charlie. I wasn't prepared to show myself to the world and hoped I wouldn't have to go inside to change and begin the search party.

Our dog was better than this. He will listen to me. I've trained him well. I'll let him know that I meant business this time.

I took a deep breath, pulling the cold air into my lungs: "CHARLIE!"

I screamed.

If Charlie was anywhere in a two to three block area, I know he heard my call. I waited, hopeful, still scanning for where he might be.

And then . . .

I think my hearing and sight captured the moment at the same time. Around the corner of the neighbor's house, on the sidewalk along the busy street, a flash of a brown and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in a dead sprint, head notched forward, tail down, and ears flowing in the wind, brought me a smile of amusement and relief.

That's my dog, I laughed to myself at his particularity to stay on paths like the sidewalk. Ordinary dogs would cut across the grass, through yards, disregarding human infrastructure. Not Charlie.

Without letting up, Charlie rounded the corner of the sidewalk turning onto our block, a twinkle in his eye, his legs pumping in unison. He kept his stride, running on the concrete, past the neighbor's house and continued along the front of our house. In a perfect pivot, he leapt up the steps and followed the sidewalk towards the front porch. I'm describing this all in slow motion, but in real time it happened in seconds. I thought he would slow down, since he was back home. Instead, Charlie's sprint continued, along the little curved concrete path around the side of the house, past me standing in flannel pants and a winter coat. He disappeared through the gate to the backyard.

I followed him and made sure that the gate latched behind me. There, a happy Charlie stood on the back deck next to the door of the house. I quietly, halfheartedly, let out a "bad dog" which didn't phase him at all, nor was it meant to. At that point it just seemed obligatory and it really didn't matter. I was glad he was back. He heard my yell and quickly came home.

Most importantly, he stayed on the sidewalk the entire time. And that is as far as I'm allowing my imagination to go, leaving me with the amusing memory of him safely running on the sidewalk back home, free from danger the entire time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Postcards From No Man's Land

Postcards from No Man's LandPostcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I grabbed this book to read I was frantically packing for a trip to Boston. I needed some reading material for the flight and, since I had recently moved, I couldn't find the charger to my Kindle. There were several titles already loaded on it that I was excited to read. Disappointed and frustrated, I snatched Postcards From No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers from my bookshelf, slightly glancing at the description on the back cover. It seemed like it would suffice.

Not paying attention while packing, I realized on the plane that the book was Young Adult Literature and the winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Michael Prinz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Somehow this book made its way from the books I had purchased for my classroom that are now boxed up and in the basement to my "to read" shelf (yes I have one of those) in my halfway organized new office.

I admit, I don't mind Young Adult Literature from time to time, and in my former English teacher life I quite enjoyed using Young Adult titles in class. So I opened the book, and plunged into the story with hope that this would be a worthwhile backup to my non-charged and useless Kindle.

Immediately, I was blown away and captivated by the storyline. Jacob, the main character, travels to Amsterdam to track down family roots in a quest to honor the grandfather he never knew who died fighting World War II. Not only does Jacob learn about a surprising family secret, but he also falls in love with Amsterdam through a series of unplanned experiences, starting with an encounter with a pick-pocket which leaves him desperate and vulnerable in an unknown place. This vulnerability propels Jacob forward on an unexpected discovery of self.

Without spoiling the surprises of the novel, it is rich with complex characters and some mature situations. At moments the book kept me turning the pages, yet there were a few areas that were predictable. There are certainly some parallels to the novel The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford where the main character discovers a rich family history from a war-time past. In both titles, through the family discovery, the character learns much about love, loss, and living.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Home is where the dog is

While Charlie is obsessed with us, his humans, I am equally obsessed with him and his crazy personality. It would be great to find him a dog friend since he is incredibly attached to us. Whenever we take Charlie with us to visit other people who have dogs, he is incredibly happy. Obviously, part of that is due to the fact that dogs are pack animals. When we got Charlie, we plucked him from a cage with another dog from his litter. The first few days we dealt with him whining at night as we acclimated him to his new surroundings.

Since I haven't been regularly writing the blog, there is a backlog of many Charlie pictures in his new home; there are countless stories to go with these pictures. I need to share these stories and pictures, documenting our mutual obsessions.

Honestly, I think Charlie could live anywhere as long as we were there. We spent weeks painting almost every room in our new house before we moved in. This was a great idea because the place was vacant and prepping and painting were a breeze. I hate painting but recommend doing it this way rather than after moving. Charlie investigated every step of the painting process, presenting extra challenges at every moment. His constantly wagging tail is a long-haired hazard to wet drying paint. If I would have let him be with me, there would have been lovely streaks along the bottom portion of every wall. To protect the drying walls from the destruction of Charlie, I improvised by stacking up moving boxes in entryways and doorways to blockade him in. I found that a crockpot box was perfect for keeping him out of the bedroom, while allowing him to check-in on the progress.

One of my favorite traits about our new home are the original wood floors everywhere. Charlie is not much of a fan. He struggled adjusting to the fact that he had no traction when he wanted to run, or when he needed to stop quickly, leading him to dangerously slide into furniture or even walls. Eventually he was able to alter his technique and adjust accordingly. The other obstacle for him is our lack of rugs. Charlie definitely doesn't like sitting or laying on the hardwood floors. He is an ingenious dog, and made great use of painting drop clothes for naps in the sun.

While we are leisurely looking for floor rugs for certain rooms throughout the house, Charlie makes due with the one rug we have so far--the bathroom mat next to the shower. He will lay on it first thing in the morning. He utilizes it while we brush our teeth and get ready for bed in the evening. And, occasionally, when we spend extended periods of time upstairs folding clothes or doing some other chore, Charlie can be found there on the bathroom rug. The spot provides him multiple amenities: a soft spot to lay, the warmth of heated air coming out of the vent, and a place containing a view to watch his humans. 

In our first home, The Castle, we had a fenced in backyard. The problem was the backdoor didn't lead directly to the back yard. Charlie would have to walk out a few feet on the driveway and then enter the back yard gate, which we left open for him. He was decently good about walking on his own into the fenced yard. Although he was also good at sneaking out of the open gate when he was curious about what was happening in the rest of the neighborhood. This setup was occasionally problematic when he would chase squirrels or rabbits: it would create a great getaway for these poor small creatures, but Charlie would pursue them even sometimes crossing the street. I shamefully admit this made us poor dog parents and irresponsible pet owners. Our new home, Castle 2.0, has automatically made it less likely that the Dog Protective Services would take Charlie from us since the back door leads directly to the fenced in back yard. Charlie loves the staggered planks of the privacy fence as they allow him to watch people come and go. This same fence does an awesome job of keeping rabbits cordoned off, restricting escape. I've seen many rabbits sprinting for minutes around the yard as they stress-fully try (because Charlie is close behind) to locate how they found their way into the yard in the first place.

My other favorite feature of our new home are the large windows in every room, allowing in natural light and views of the outdoors. Charlie also takes advantage of this, and I've written about this before in another blog post. Charlie quickly learned which windows are the ones he must use to get views of his humans in the backyard or the garage as we leave to run errands or go to work. I've discovered that it is imperative to raise the blinds just enough so that Charlie can see out the window. If not, he will persist, finding a way to get his little head through to see what is happening. I realized this the hard way one day when I went out to shovel the snow while Michelle was not home. I came back inside the house to discover Charlie had destroyed (beyond repair) the upstairs blinds on the windows that overlooked the backyard. 

The joys of owning a home also come with those unwelcome surprise moments. We've already had several of those, but I knew that when we wanted Castle 2.0 to be an older house with character. I've put my do-it-yourself skills to use, unclogging a toilet on the first floor and replacing a broken garbage disposal in the kitchen. I'm secretly excited for other projects in the future, just as long as they happen on my timeline and when we can financially afford them. I know that is impossible to control, but I can sure try. As long as Charlie is right there with me, I'm confident we will survive it together.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Already obsessed

My dad enjoys writing. I try to add my own ideas and, generally, I'm pretty supportive when he has the laptop out. I've been wanting to do more than just sit next to him when he writes so I took matters into my own paws.

Recently, I've been very carefully watching his fingers to memorize key strokes and my determination paid off: I discerned his blog password.

I have exciting news to share with the blogging community and I hope that actual canines read this, not just humans. But humans are great. I love them. So humans should read too.

My parents are very good to me and I'm seriously obsessed with them. Several months ago they told me I'm going to have a human baby sister. Now I'm even more obsessed! I can't stop thinking about her. I'm thrilled about living with a little person. Small people are the coolest. But as a dog who does an impeccable job of protecting two fully-grown people I'm concerned what changes a little one might bring.

I hope I can sleep in her crib, curling up next to her to keep her warm.

I want to chase her around the house, just like how dad plays chase with me.

I hear that pregnant women are absent-minded. The other night glass cookware exploded all over the kitchen because my mom inadvertently had the incorrect burner turned up on high heat. It was scary. Accidents happen, but I hate how dad carried me to my kennel and wouldn't let me run on shattered glass to check and see if my mom was OK.

The little kids from the neighborhood came to our house and rang the doorbell on New Year's Day. I can't wait for little neighborhood kids to play with my sister. Kids everywhere! I will chase them. Chasing is fun.

My parents think they can teach me not to jump before little sister is born. I will jump all over her anyway. I will also lick her face, lay on her neck, and show her how much I can love her.